Darren Welch has seen a thing or two.
Currently playing bass in chamber-folk ensemble In the Pines, Welch also is a co-owner of Midwestern Musical Company. I caught up with him via e-mail talked about art, the economy and the Kansas City Sound.
The Pitch: Where are you from?
Darren Welch: I am from Kansas City. I lived in Lawrence from 1988 to '94. I went there to go to school and quickly found out that my interests were geared more towards "unsupervised living" than scholastics. I indeed had a thirst, but not for knowledge. Since then, I have lived in KC.
How do you keep up with new music?
I worked at Streetside Records for eight years and I'll never have my finger on the pulse of music the way I did in that period, but I still try to keep up mainly through friends and the Internet. I frequent some blogs, MySpace and Last.fm. There's still nothing like hearing a song for the first time that you know immediately will find a place on your musical palette for the rest of your life.
What local culture are you interested in?
I am very proud of Kansas City's rich art history. In the "Bible belt," you're not supposed to appreciate or put stock in what the "sensitive weirdos" of society are contributing. Kansas City goes against that and embraces art. To open yourself to art is to open your mind. That kind of thinking is usually not associated strongly with the midwest, but rather is thought to be a more "coastal" or international way of thinking. Kansas City holds some world-renowned public and private collections and we should appreciate that fact.
I also always try to keep one eye on the peaked and valleyed music scene around here.
What do you feel are some of the effects the economy is having on music these days?
I don't go out as often as I did in my 20s to see first hand how the economy is hitting the live music scene, but I know from my bar owner friends that they have been feeling it. As the owner of a retail spot for musical instruments, I definitely see the effects the economy is having on musicians on a daily basis. Instead of saying "I gotta have that!" they are saying "I gotta pay rent!"
What do you think makes the Kansas City music scene different from others?
I think it would be foolish to think that we have one particular thing that no other scene has. After all "a scene is a scene," for the most part. But what Kansas City has that most scenes don't is a history. We obviously have the legendary Jazz history that holds weight world wide and we also have pockets of more current history in rock where locals in recent generations have made their mark outside of this town.
I used to tour with Shiner slinging their merchandise for them and I had the pleasure of seeing first hand how some of my peers had truly made a mark on this country musically. I used to hear the term "Kansas City Sound" get thrown around a lot and I thought it was just my friends around here acknowledging that they were feeding off of each other with powerful herky-jerky time signatures, but it took hearing kids in Baltimore and Cleveland using the term to make me realize that a mark really had been made.
Guys like Allen Epley [Shiner, the Life and Times] and Steve Tulipana [Season to Risk, Roman Numerals] and their bands paid some serious dues crammed in vans over countless miles to establish that kind of recognition.
I'm not saying we invented anything around here, but I do know that we've been heard and have left an impression beyond these city limits.
Welch's band, In the Pines, plays tomorrow with Olympic Size on the deck outside of Californo's in Westport (4124 Pennsylvania). Olympic Size goes on at 8:45; ITP at 10.